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State's deep freeze blamed for fire, wet dogs

New Hampshire Sunday News

January 04. 2014 7:37PM

Joan McGivern, from Manchester, prepares to move portable shelves, under the worst part of the ceiling collapse, as volunteers clean up damage from burst pipes at the Friends of Manchester Animal Shelter. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
By the numbers
Low temps Saturday:
Berlin: -25
Pittsburg: -24
Errol: -23
Lebanon: -23
Whitefield: -22
Bradford: -20
Mt. Washington: -18
Jaffrey: -18
Concord: -17
Hudson: -16
Milford: -14
Nashua: -14
Manchester: -7

The bitter cold spell took its toll, with frozen pipes blamed for a house fire in Derry and damage at the city animal shelter in Manchester.

A landlord attempting to thaw frozen pipes with a propane torch sparked a fire that chased two families from a century-old home at 5 Mt. Pleasant St. in Derry Saturday morning, officials said.

A female resident who has a history of respiratory problems developed shortness of breath outside and was taken to Parkland Medical Center, according to the fire department.

It took firefighters about an hour to bring the fire, reported shortly before 9 a.m., under control. Fire damage was limited mostly to the structure itself, and residents were able to recover most of their belongings.

The American Red Cross helped five adults and two dogs find places to stay, authorities said.

Thirteen other dogs had to be evacuated from the Manchester Animal Shelter on Friday after a frozen pipe burst in the ceiling, sending water and debris into the kennel area below.

On Saturday, volunteers were cleaning up the damage and a city inspector stopped by to assess the damage in the city-owned building, according to Journey Ewell, co-president of Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter (FMAS).

The office was closed on Friday, and only a receptionist was there when the fire alarms went off around noon. "She heard the dogs barking and ran back to the kennel and saw the damage," Ewell said.

"Water was pouring into the kennel. All the dogs were soaked.... All the bedding was soaked, all the food, the leashes.

"We had one dog, poor thing, shivering in a corner with a ceiling tile on him. It was a disaster," Ewell said.

The dog hit by the tile was a large Anatolian shepherd mix named Hefty, who wasn't hurt, she said.

Folks from the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford jumped in to help out, taking five of the 13 dogs to its shelter.

Two dogs that were in the process of being adopted went to their adoptive homes early; three others went to foster homes. And three dogs that were being held in quarantine for Manchester police were taken by Londonderry police department, Ewell said.

"They're all safe, and no one got hurt," she said.

The shelter's cats are in a different room and were not affected by the incident, Ewell said.

City workers are expected back at the shelter on Monday to repair the damage. Ewell said FMAS would welcome dog beds, blankets, leashes and collars as well as monetary donations to replace what was lost.

Temperatures ranged from minus 25 in Berlin to a balmy minus 5 in Portsmouth. Mount Washington, normally a state cold spot, bottomed out at minus 18.

Concord reached minus 17, shy of the record low for the date - minus 23 - set in 1904.

Bill Simpson, meteorolgist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., said it was the coldest air in the state's southern tier in "at least a couple years."

Simpson said the cold will return Monday night, but won't be as severe. "Close but no cigar," he said. Today's forecast isn't in the clear, however. The National Weather Service has issued a freezing-rain advisory for Cheshire and Hillsborough counties from 4 p.m. today through 5 a.m. Monday.

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